by Bryan Darrow and Jonathan Vatner | August 01, 2006

Lynn Valley in North Vancouver


For extra-special events:
Verdant Lynn Valley in
North Vancouver

It only stands to reason that an organization with eco-friendly aspirations should be able to meet in a city that shares those goals. Here, then, we present 20 cities in the United States and Canada that are doing their part to host green conventions by providing renewable energy, intelligent recycling programs, transportation that minimizes usage of fossil fuels, and a whole lot of parkland.

1. Portland, Ore.

With 166 miles of trails and 37,000 acres of parkland, Portland is as green in color as it is in reputation. But it’s not just the great outdoors that gives the city bragging rights. For example, Portland offers more than 246 miles of developed bikeways and the Airport MAX light-rail, which was the first train-to-plane transportation option on the West Coast. The Portland Streetcar, inaugurated in 2001 to help decrease traffic congestion and air pollution, is green in both age and impact.

Portland also is a leader in sustainable building practices: For example, it has the most LEED-certified buildings per capita in the nation (for a description of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, see “Green Parade”). The Oregon Convention Center, which is one of only two LEED-approved convention facilities in the country (the other is in Pittsburgh), recently created a Rain Garden that collects storm water from the roof and filters it through a system of rock terraces, pools and soil to help prevent pollutants from reaching the Willamette River.

Portland also has several eco-friendly hotels, with the 476-room Doubletree Hotel & Executive Meeting Center leading the pack. The only official Green Seal-certified property (meaning it’s environmentally proactive on everything from coffee filters to air chillers) in Oregon, the Doubletree offers an in-room recycling program, uses water- and energy-saving equipment, donates leftover food to a local shelter and composts what can’t be donated.

“While some of these green policies initially had a significant cost, overall we are enjoying savings based on our sustainable efforts,” notes Steve Faulstick, general manager.

According to Tracy Marks, general manager of the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower, which is moving toward a Green Seal, “As more Portland hotels become green-certified, we believe the entire city will recognize an uptick in business, particularly among groups equally concerned with the environment.”

San Francisco


San Francisco:
Solar panels atop
the Moscone Center

2. San Francisco

A very active Department of the Environment, combined with citizens and legislators concerned about humanity’s effect on the world, makes San Francisco an exceptionally green city, one unmatched in its recycling programs.

The hotels play a big part in the city’s eco-savviness. Kimpton’s Hotel Triton, for example, set the original standard in 2004 for the California Green Lodging Program, an effort to convince state employees to stay in eco-friendly hotels. The hotel now offers a number of “eco-suites”; 10 percent of its room rental is donated to an environment-saving charity. Perhaps more impressive is the state’s first LEED-certified property, the 86-room Orchard Garden Hotel, which opened in June. The hotel uses all-natural cleaning products, recycled paper and a system in which lights and heating/air conditioning shut off when guests leave the room. And, of course, the place is smoke-free.

The city’s convention center, the Moscone Center, has perhaps the most comprehensive recycling program of any stateside convention venue. In 1997, state law mandated that communities reduce the amount of landfill waste by half; immediately, management of the Moscone Center took action, above and beyond what was required. “We did it because it made sense, and because it was the right thing,” says Julie Burford, assistant general manager, “and we were convinced that we could save money for our clients.”

Since the program’s inception, the amount of garbage sent to the landfill has decreased by 75 percent by volume and 50 percent by weight. Much of what used to be waste is now donated to homeless shelters, nonprofit associations and schools.

As icing on the cake, in 2004, the city voted to install 60,000 square feet of solar panels on the roof of the Moscone Center, a display that generates enough power for 550 homes and will pay for itself by the end of 2012.